2016 Safeguarding Data Report published

- First year data on safeguarding concerns reported to the HSE via safeguarding teams
- 7,884 safeguarding concerns managed by safeguarding teams nationally
- 13,499 people in HSE and HSE funded agencies trained in safeguarding in 2016


The HSE’s National Safeguarding Office has, for the first time, published safeguarding data reported to the Safeguarding and Protection Teams (SPTs) in each of its nine Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs).

This information, for 2016, represents the first year of data collection by the SPTs who were established following the publication of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse National Policy and Procedures (2014).  These teams are tasked with managing safeguarding concerns relating primarily to persons with a disability and people over 65 years who are deemed vulnerable.

 The full data report is available here.

The data collated for 2016 shows that there was a total of 7,884 safeguarding concerns managed by the SPTs;  4,749 relate to adults aged 18-64 years, 3,029 relate to adults over 65 years and of these 1,221 were over 80 years. Full data report is available on www.hse.ie/safeguarding


  • For those aged 18-64, the three main alleged abuse categories were; physical 48%, psychological 24% and sexual 11%.
  • For those over 65, the dominant categories were; alleged psychological 27%, physical and financial 22% abuse.


Key trends emerging included:

  • Alleged physical abuse is highest in males aged 18-64
  • Alleged sexual abuse is highest in females 18-64 but also represents an issue for younger males
  • Alleged financial abuse is highest for males across all age categories with the highest level in those over 80 years
  • Alleged neglect increases with age with the highest level reported in females over 80
  • Where alleged institutional abuse was reported it was highest in younger males


Key messages from the data report:

  • The figures show that there is a clear framework developed in the past two years to support staff in recognising and responding appropriately to concerns of abuse.
  • This report provides strong evidence that having a specially assigned official, a Designated Officer, within service settings, and the setting up of the HSE safeguarding Teams, has provided a more consistent method of communicating and co-coordinating the management of concerns between the HSE and HSE funded services. 
  • Training is a core component of the work the HSE’s National Safeguarding Office and this is facilitated across the public, voluntary and private sector. In total, there were 13,499 people trained in safeguarding in 2016, far exceeding the 8000 target set. The training provided also focuses on the human rights of the service user and being mindful of the steps to take in preventing abuse.
  • It is evident that there is a strong association between training and reporting which is serving to enshrine a positive, open culture where a zero tolerance approach to abuse is promoted. Training programmes in safeguarding has been well developed in the HSE and HSE funded services.
  • Concerns came from a wide variety of sources with voluntary agencies (38%) included in over 400 services reporting safeguarding concerns in 2016.
  • The system of recognising, responding and reporting concerns of abuse towards vulnerable adults does not have a legislative basis in this jurisdiction. Whilst the HSE is currently reviewing the policy to consider areas for improvement it is clear from operational feedback that there are limitations and challenges to work effectively in this area without a legislative basis and framework. The HSE welcomes recent developments to enact legislation in the safeguarding field.


Commenting on the figures, Tim Hanly, General Manager, HSE National Safeguarding Office said, “The publication of these figures shows the development of a strong process and system to recognise and report abuse. There is a zero tolerance approach to abuse that has made a positive difference.  We recently carried out a staff survey completed by over 1,400 staff who voiced strong confidence in the human rights principles underpinning this policy. These overall figures may appear to be high but the key issue is that we have appropriate systems in place to prevent abuse in the first place and people are supported when they raise concerns.”


Most vulnerable adults do not experience abuse. For those who do, it can manifest in different ways. Abuse can take place in any context. It may occur if a person lives alone or with a relative, it may occur within residential or day care settings, in hospitals, home support services and other places assumed to be safe, or in public places.


If a person is being abused, or if someone is concerned about abuse or suspect that someone they know is being abused, they can contact a health professional such as a GP, public health nurse or social worker in a safeguarding team or bring their concern to the Designated Officer within a service. A full contact listing of the HSE SPT teams can be downloaded from the HSE website on the following link, www.hse.ie/safeguardingor by contacting the National Safeguarding Office on 061-461358.


A Confidential Recipient has been appointed by the HSE to receive concerns and allegations of abuse, negligence, mistreatment or poor care practices in HSE or HSE funded residential care facilities in good faith from patients, service users, families, other concerned individuals and staff members. The HSE Confidential Recipient Leigh Gath can be contacted on Low Call 1890 -100014, Mobile 087-6657269 or email leigh.gath@crhealth.ie.


All safeguarding concerns are treated in confidence and, as much as possible, handled in a way that respects the wishes of the person at risk. The service is focused on the client, aimed at the safety and well-being of the person at risk while providing support to stop the abusive behaviour.


Effective collaboration:

Staff, families, home helps, Gardai and GPs all represent key groups engaging with the SPTs, illustrating safeguarding is everybody’s business. Indeed the work of the National Safeguarding Committee, of which the HSE is a member, is strengthening the inter agency collaboration in collectively working to ensure the safeguarding of those most vulnerable in Irish society.


The National Safeguarding Committee (established by, but independent of, the HSE) has this week launched a Safeguarding Awareness Campaign which will run during June and September to highlight the issue of abuse of vulnerable adults with disabilities and older people. It is hoped this campaign will generate active conversations within families, communities and workplace on the topic. Further information about the campaign can be found on www.safeguardingcommittee.ie


Last updated on: 12 / 06 / 2017